Air France-KLM shares slump on Aigle Azur rescue fears
Adds details, background
PARIS, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Shares in Air France-KLM AIRF.PA fell sharply on Monday after a French minister named the airline group as a likely bidder for bankrupt carrier Aigle Azur, which left 19,000 passengers stranded after abruptly halting operations.
Air France-KLM said it had no immediate comment on whether it had submitted an offer for all or part of Aigle Azur, as a midday court deadline passed.
Junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari earlier told Le Parisien that Air France-KLM "appears to want to make an offer" - also mentioning a likely bid from Lionel Guerin, former head of the French carrier's Hop! short-haul business.
Higher fuel costs and stiffer low-cost competition have led to a wave of bankruptcies among smaller European airlines in the past three years, including Air Berlin, Germania, British-based Monarch, Latvia's Primera Air and Swiss SkyWork.
Aigle Azur's difficulties were compounded by the privately held carrier's over-expansion from medium-haul services focused on Algeria into long-haul destinations such as Brazil.
The French state, keen to drum up interest and save Aigle Azur's 1,200 jobs, has also flagged EasyJet and Air Caraibes parent Dubreuil Group as potential bidders.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday that a "principal offer" for Aigle Azur was being considered. The bankrupt carrier's works council was due to meet on Monday afternoon to consider any bids received.
Government influence on Air France-KLM, in which France holds a 14.3% stake, added to investor concern that had driven the Franco-Dutch group's shares 8.5% lower by 1042GMT.
"The government is likely to push them to get involved," one trader told Reuters.
Officials turned to Air France-KLM as early as April, after Aigle Azur sought help from a government agency, according to financial daily Les Echos. Its interest was piqued after the struggling carrier discussed selling valuable take-off and landing slots at Paris Orly to Spain's Vueling, the paper reported.
Air France has scrambled extra Algeria flights to help repatriate the 13,000 Aigle Azur passengers still stranded by the collapse. Most will have reached their destinations by the end of the week, the junior transport minister said.
(Reporting by Patrick Vignal and Laurence Frost; Writing by Richard Lough and Laurence Frost; Editing by Richard Lough)
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